HOLOGRAMS ON DISC
In 1980, Mike Foster, a pioneer of embossed holography, decorated some LP records for A & M Records with holographic diffraction grating designs. These albums, Paradise Theatre by Styx and True Colours by Split Enz, mark the beginning of a relationship between holography and the music industry that continues to this day. In neither case was this new type of picture disc announced on the LP cover and you would have had to look at the small print on the record label to see 'Holographic Grading Process by Michael Foster' and probably been none the wiser for that.
More obvious was the album cover produced in 1984 for the British group UB40 by Advanced Holographics in Loughborough. This featured a 5.75" square embossed hologram showing a 3D image of the letters UB carved out of polystyrene to look like stone and the numbers 44 hovering in space on the picture plane. On the inner sleeve was an explanation of the holographic process and instructions on how to light the hologram.
Around this time, my company, SEE 3, devised a process for incorporating 2D/3D holograms into picture discs and undertook a few commercial jobs, including one with Chris Levine - "Help a London Child" for Capital Radio. When my partner, Nigel Abraham, went to work at Applied Holographics, he and Chris developed some of the first CDs incorporating dotmatrix and 3D holographic images.
Chris says of this period:
"The work I did with Nigel Abraham and Applied in the area of Holographic CD's was most interesting. I always felt it had so much further to go in terms of the kinds of holograms to be used, that is not just the 2D dot Matrix that was available at the time but other more sophisticated techniques. Developing full surface images could be very exciting too, particularly for DVD movie releases with animated holograms mastered direct from movie footage. Some of the music releases we produced were very effective as holographic designs but it was the very beginning of digital input to holographic origination and I was learning more each time about the design process and how to get effective results each time we did a project. To work with it lucidly as a medium meant having a good understanding of how the image, or a pixel on screen, would translate into the final holographics with its light reactive properties. This only became apparent by trial and error as I designed the CDs. On some I hit the mark and others I put down to invaluable experience. The response was generally good and they sold well. Releases I worked on include two for Simply Red, David Bowie, Skid Row, Cosmic Baby and the B 52's."
Chris Levine also collaborated with Spatial Imaging to make holographic stereograms for CD covers, notably Mike Oldfield, Wet,Wet,Wet and Boyzone, making a visual link between music videos and record packaging in the form of animated holographic images.
In the United States, Sharon McCormack produced a superb holographic stereogram of Prince with two lady friends for the cover of his 'Diamonds & Pearls' CD, and Polaroid made the first photopolymer image to grace a CD cover for Suzanne Vega's 'Book of Dreams'.
Not all of the holograms on discs in my collection are musical. In 1981 a British toy company called Loncraine Broxton introduced a new product to the market. Their 'Dimension Disc' was made of metal with an embossed holographic grating applied to it and, when you spun it, a kinetic 3D pattern was produced. Several other companies produced these 'spinners', just another in a long line of optical toys, stretching back to kaleidoscopes and beyond.
In the late 1980s, Patrick Boyd returned from a trip to the States and showed me a most amusing little holographic novelty. The Holodisk showed an attractive kneeling woman who , as you turned the disc, could be observed slipping her robe from her shoulders. Tantalisngly though, just as you were about to get a glimpse of her uncovered body, the sequence started again. Craig Newswanger gives the background to this product:
"I was working with Chris Outwater who had spun off ADD from Disney. Later it became Applied Holographics, in 88 I think. The original idea came from thinking about the infamous non-hologram, Princess Leia. How to make a freely viewable 360 degree hologram? This was mid-1986. At the time we did not have a real use for the idea but then at some point we started working with a toy design company in New York that had done some work with Hasbro. At the time I believe Kevin and Rick Rankin were working with me. The toy company was called A.G.E. We made a number of holograms for a prototype toy playset with various characters and vehicles and so on. Ultimately the toy industry bit the dust with the stock market dip in 87. I shot a number of subjects, models for general interest but Rita was by far the best idea. My original name for the image was Mobius strip but no one really appreciated the joke so it became Lovely Rita since the model's name was Rita. It was fun to watch guys follow the hologram around on a turntable and try to out run it to see a bit more skin but alas they were never satisfied. I think that is the magic of the image. It was a perfect tease.
Every so often I get an email from someone who has tracked me down to find more images or another Rita but now the best source of images are comic shops since we did a number of images of super-heroes for comic companies. These were mass produced by Polaroid. I worked with my friend, Bill Molteni at Polaroid. The best images were Batman and a number of Spiderman Holodisks. Some were 2 disks on comic covers and standalone 5 disks that were sold separately."
Another great holographic product with a much too short lifespan. It seems to be a while since a record came out with a hologram on it and I haven't seen any holographic toys for a while either. But I expect something new is just around the corner - it usually is with holography. Watch this space...